The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada is billed by some as brilliant satire and a wonderful picture of the world of fashion magazine publishing. Those who work in the industry and know the personalities skewered may get a lot of entertainment from recognizing people they know. But the book is hindered by weak characterizations and superficial plotting, and when “the devil” isn’t “on-stage,” the book falters badly.
Recent Brown graduate Andrea Sachs dreams of writing for The New Yorker, and, when she is offered a job as assistant to the Miranda Priestly, she is assured that one year of working with Miranda will open doors anywhere in the magazine world. Even though Andrea knows nothing about Runway (a thinly-veiled rendering of Vogue, by the way), the magazine Miranda (Vogue’s Anna Wintour) runs, she is determined to take this job and start blazing a trail toward the writing job of her dreams.
As you may suspect, Miranda Priestly turns out to be the Boss from Hell. She expects her assistants to be her 24-hour doormats – and happy-to-serve doormats at that. She forgets Andrea’s name, criticizes her clothing, calls her to work at all hours, and generally dictates the terms of Andrea’s miserable life. Needless to say, this leaves the young woman with little time for her boyfriend, an inner city schoolteacher, and her best friend, a party-girl turned grad student.
This book does have some good moments. Andrea’s descriptions of the Elias-Clark publishing offices are often amusing, especially in the opening chapters of the book. The office is pretentious beyond belief and Andrea’s snarky commentary on it all fits perfectly into the mood of the story. As Andrea moves through her time with Miranda, the absolute bleakness of her existence is also made very clear.
The main weakness of this book lies in the underdevelopment of the characters, as well as some of the plot devices. For example, the author relies heavily on running jokes such as referring to Andrea’s position as “the job a million girls would die for” and, as the book progresses, these running quips begin to wear thin and seem to act almost as a substitute for deeper development of the storyline.
In addition, the author relies heavily on typecast characters. Aside from the fact that Andrea wants to be a writer and hates her job with Miranda Priestly, the reader does not learn much about her. Andrea seems almost to be giving a dry narrative of her life at the office rather than really bringing the reader into her world and, even though her life is terrible, it is hard to empathize with her. The secondary characters get short shrift as well. Co-workers are primarily stereotypical flamboyant gay men and super-skinny women and neither their characters nor the characters of Andrea’s friends are developed with any subtlety.
Skewing the world of high fashion publishing could have resulted in a very funny book. Unfortunately, the somewhat flat plot development in this novel led to a disappointingly average story. For a funnier treatment of similar themes, I recommend Lynn Messina’s Fashionistas instead.